Unlike Uranus, Neptune isn’t visible with the naked eye.
Its average distance from the Sun is 4.5 billion km and it’s the only planet in the Solar System found by mathematical prediction rather than by empirical observation.
And its discovery in 1846 was shrouded in confusion, mystery and scandal.
Neptune was originally discovered, mathematically, by John C. Adams.
On October 1, 1845 he precisely indicated where the unknown planet would be located.
He sent his findings to Sir George B. Airy, the Astronomer Royal of England, but nothing was done about them.
In 1845-46 French Astronomer Urbain Jean Joseph Le Verrier, unaware of Adams’ work, developed his own calculations.
He calculated the position of Neptune and sent his findings to the Urania Observatory in Berlin.
In June 1846, George B. Airy saw Le Verrier’s first published estimate of the planet’s longitude and noticed its similarity to Adams’s estimate.
Airy then persuaded Cambridge Observatory director, James Challis, to search for the planet – to no avail.
On September 23, 1846 Johann G. Galle director of the Urania Observatory observed Neptune with a telescope within a degree of the position predicted by Urbain Le Verrier.
James Challis later realised that he had observed the planet twice, on August 4 and 12 August, but did not recognise it as a planet.
So, who discovered Neptune – Adams or Le Verrier?
In the wake of the discovery, much nationalistic rivalry erupted between the French and the British over who deserved credit for the discovery.
Eventually, an international consensus emerged that both Le Verrier and Adams jointly deserved credit.
But in 1998 the issue was re-evaluated.
The Royal Observatory, Greenwich reviewed the ‘Neptune Papers’ and suggested that ‘Adams does not deserve equal credit with Le Verrier for the discovery of Neptune. That credit belongs only to the person who succeeded both in predicting the planet’s place and in convincing astronomers to search for it.’
Astronomy books now credit both men with Neptune’s discovery.
Shortly after its discovery Neptune was simply referred as ‘the planet exterior to Uranus’ or ‘Le Verrier’s planet’.
Le Verrier wanted to name the planet after himself but later proposed the name Neptune.
In early 1847 Neptune became the internationally accepted name.
Neptune, identified with the Greek Poseidon, was the god of the sea.
So, all the planets, except Earth, are named for deities in Greek and Roman mythology.
Neptune and astrology
The discovery of Neptune on September 23, 1846 was another major astrological event.
It ushered in the Neptune period of the Mars section of the Age of Pisces.
The focus of human interest and effort turned to corporations, stock promotions, oil and gas, drug wars, spiritualism and aviation.
The New York stock exchange had opened in March 1817 but in September 1846 corporations in America took off.
They were free, easy to organize and only required a simple registration form.
A minor banking crisis occurred in Britain – the Panic of 1847 – and since then there have been regular booms, busts and financial panics.
Panics occurred in September 1869, May 1873, 1884, 1893, 1896, May 1901 and October 1907.
In the Mars section of the Piscean Age opium (Neptune) was the preferred pain killer.
It relieved the pain of fevers, cramps and unbearable memories.
Horrific wars (Mars) were fought over opium.
The first Opium War (1839–42) was fought between China and Britain.
Then, in the Neptune period of the Mars section of the Age of Pisces the second Opium War (1856–60) was fought, between Britain, France and China.
From 1861 to 1865 the American Civil War (Mars) was fought over a long-standing controversy involving slavery (Neptune).
The decades after the US Civil War were called the Gilded Age by Mark Twain.
It was period dominated by political scandal, the development of America’s first giant corporations, the railroads and the economization of oil and electricity.
Then on December 17, 1903 the Wright Brothers took to the skies in their ‘Flying machine’.
Neptune had been influencing the proceedings here on Earth since the beginning and its discovery in 1846 gave impetus to its distinct influence.
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